Desert Mountain, the renowned private golf and recreational community in north Scottsdale, Ariz., celebrated its 25th anniversary this month with a holiday-themed party with the guest of honor being Jack Nicklaus, who designed all six courses at the club. Recently named a 2012 Platinum Club of America, this 8,000-acre, member-owned club is ranked the top private club in Arizona and among the top 10 in the nation.
The day after celebrating the 25th anniversary with more than 2,100 in attendance, the Golden Bear worked with the teams from Desert Mountain and Nicklaus Design to review several of the six Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses to create a long-range master plan to take Desert Mountain into the next 25 years.
“Desert Mountain is a very important part of my legacy in golf course design,” Nicklaus said. “The next 25 years at Desert Mountain are as important to that legacy as the first 25 years. This is the member’s facility, but I hope to remain as engaged and involved as the club and membership would like.
“There is a commitment to sustaining the excellence Desert Mountain is known for worldwide. There is also a commitment to grow with the times, an ever-evolving golf industry, and the needs of the membership.”
Bordering the Tonto National Forest, Desert Mountain was once part of the historic Carefree Ranch, the largest cattle ranch in the area owned by the pioneering Cartwright family who came to Arizona in 1874. It was also a mining center for copper, turquoise and gold, as well as a farm. In the early 1980s, developer Lyle Anderson visited the high desert property and envisioned a community with a lifestyle that was in total harmony with the land.
It was developed as a luxury planned community offering custom home sites and several semi-custom developer products from its opening in 1987 through the late 2000s.
Today, Desert Mountain has more than 2,130 club members from around the world, a population of more than 4,000, and more than 1,650 homes in 27 villages. It is considered the private club industry’s standard for excellence on a global scale.
“Rarely will you find a private club of this size that has been so thoughtfully conceived and designed,” explained COO and General Manager Robert Jones, adding that the property continues to reflect Anderson’s primary rule that “the land always dictates the concept…the land and the market.”
The master plan for Desert Mountain, was designed by Taliesin Associated Architects, the architectural group founded by Frank Lloyd Wright. Jack Nicklaus was selected to create the first of six Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses, the first of which, Renegade, opened in 1987. The club opened its first five courses in a 13-year span, and its sixth course, Outlaw, debuted in 2003. Today, Desert Mountain is the only private club in the world with 108 holes of Nicklaus golf.
Desert Mountain became known for its quality golf early on. Anderson and Deane Beman, the commissioner of the PGA Champions Tour at the time, are credited with developing The Tradition into a major golf tournament on the tour within four years of its introduction on the Cochise Course in 1989. Cochise remained the host course through 2001. During those Tradition years, it was voted the best-conditioned course on the Champions Tour by the players and was also the site of many storied shots by some of golf’s greatest players including Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Hale Irwin.
Jones pointed out that The Tradition “helped to not only elevate Desert Mountain’s stature in its early years, it also helped to promote the Scottsdale area nationally and internationally as a second home market and a highly desirable place to live and play golf.”
In 2011, the Champions Tour once again came calling, this time to offer Desert Mountain an opportunity to host the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, the season-ending event of the tour. This would be the first time the tournament would leave the famed Harding Park Golf Club in San Francisco in three years. The tournament was held on Cochise Oct. 31-Nov. 4 and attended by 30,000 people, who watched Scottsdale’s own Tom Lehman win both the championship and the cup.
Following more than two decades of development and nearly 100 design awards, Desert Mountain’s amenities today also include six clubhouses, each offering a different architectural and culinary experience; fitness training and classes; spa services; resort-style pools; a USTA-sanctioned tennis complex often referred to as the “Wimbledon of the West;” 15 miles of hiking trails; and a youth activities center. And the amenities continue to grow. Earlier this year, a $1.6 million golf performance center, offering the latest golf instructional technology in the industry today—all in one place—opened to members.
Desert Mountain is heading into its third season as a member-owned club, having been purchased, along with the golf courses, amenities and developable land, by the membership for $73.5 million in December 2010. The club governing structure consists of an elected, nine-member board of directors with 10 standing committees.